Career Advice from Women in Key Roles in the Produce Industry
Women are becoming an increasingly strong force in the apple industry. And, no better day to recognize this is on International Women’s Day. Here, we talk with two women at the helm of major tree fruit organizations in the country and world.
Lisa Jenereaux, the President of the International Fruit Tree Association, and the first woman to take the helm of the organization. Jenereaux, part-owner of Spur Brothers Farms, LTD, is a fifth-generation farmer from Nova Scotia.
Kaari Stannard is the current chair of the USApple Board of Directors. She’s the owner of New York Apple Sales, Inc., and is a partner in Pomona Packing and Lake Ontario Fruit and is also a partner in Fish Creek Orchards. Both Stannard and Jenereaux attribute their success in their respected industries to educational and leadership opportunities within the produce industry.
Stannard, was the featured speaker at IFTA’s Women’s Networking Dinner, where she talked about entering the fruit industry and learning on the fly and what it’s like to be a woman in the produce industry. Here’s a sampling of some of the questions that were asked (and a few that we didn’t have time to get to) to both Kaari and Lisa.
Q: What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Jenereaux: “No matter what, be yourself.”
Stannard: “Listen. Listen more, process, and react. If you have to, take the time to sleep on decisions. Too often due to hectic timelines and schedules, we react to quickly or emotionally. By taking a few hours to think, clearer and better decisions can be made.”
Q: What advice would you have liked to have heard when you were starting out?
Jenereaux: “Trust your instincts.”
Stannard: “Even those who you think have it all worked out – they don’t. Basically, don’t ever be afraid to ask a question. Nine out of 10 times, you will find that most are also seeking the answer and through collaboration, you can work together to find the best answer to any question.”
Q: What do you think the most important skills are for success in this field?
Jenereaux: “Always be a student. You need to be continually learning or you will be left behind.”
Stannard: “[Have] the skill to be able to relate to people and have great working relationships built on integrity and trust; to be able to make solid relationships with your peers, customers, or other leaders; to actively listen, process, often repeat back your understanding and then respond; and to allow for every team member to make their own decisions. If those decisions do not align with you as the leader, discuss, explain, and adjust for the future.”
Q: How do you avoid being complacent in your role?
Jenereaux: “Be involved in the industry. Sit on boards and committees. Go to conferences. You need places where your ideals will be challenged.”
Stannard: “[You should] always actively seek out education and volunteer opportunities — either within your industry or outside through community engagement. This could be PMA or United education seminars or speaking engagements.”
Q: How should we as an industry support women entering the industry and choosing agriculture as a career?
Jenereaux: “When you give women the opportunity to have leadership roles in businesses and associations, we are automatically providing the structure to support new women in the industry. Having women in leadership positions is empowering for all women because it shows what can be done and provides examples of how it can be done.”
Stannard: “Agriculture is a wonderful field for women. Our industry associations do a wonderful job for training, educating, and networking for women. Individual companies hiring women should have a clear understanding of each women’s support systems and work openly with them on any constraints to the working day or hours. By creating an open and honest dialogue, companies and the employee can have a win-win.”
Q: What else should women entering the tree fruit industry know and understand?
Jenereaux: “Don’t be scared to speak up and give your opinion. Your voice is important.”
Stannard: “It is an industry with some of the best people I have ever met. Seek out all opportunities to meet others, reach out and collaborate. No matter what your situation is, work hard in all aspects of your life, smile and don’t allow guilt/regret into your lives.”